SAN DIEGO - It’s not unusual for the Nationals to hold a position of prominence at the Winter Meetings, given all the prominent players they’ve employed and/or pursued over the last decade, but they’ve never held a position quite like this.
The Nats front office reported to the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Sunday night not only as the recently crowned World Series champions but as the team that now has two of the most prominent players available on the free agent market.
If Gerrit Cole is the No. 1 player available this winter, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg are clearly No. 2 and No. 3, in one order or the other. They’ve already been the talk of the baseball world in the month since they became free agents, and they’ll be front and center all week as the industry waits to see if this winter’s market is more aggressive and robust than the slog that consumed last winter.
The Nationals, according to general manager Mike Rizzo last week, had not yet met face-to-face with either Rendon or Strasburg. But as Rizzo pointed out, the two sides have known each other for 10 years, so it’s not like the Nats need to make any kind of pitch to convince either player to sign.
This really boils down to money, and perhaps to either player’s comfort level with Washington and perceived desire to stay with the only franchise that has ever employed each of them. And it does appear several other clubs are poised to offer big-time dollars to one or both players.
Rendon already has met with the Rangers and could be targeted by the Dodgers, according to reports. Strasburg is being courted by the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers and perhaps the Padres, according to more reports.
Given managing principal owner Mark Lerner’s recent claim in a taped television interview with former tennis player, lawyer and agent Donald Dell that the Nationals can’t afford to re-sign both stars, there’s increased pressure to lock up one of the two. They have to be careful not to get caught napping in this game of musical chairs and end up with neither still in uniform.
Complicating matters, of course, is the fact Scott Boras represents both players. Yes, the Nats and Boras have worked together many times over the years and worked out long-term deals for Max Scherzer, Jayson Werth and Strasburg (the deal he just opted out of with four years and $100 million remaining). But Boras isn’t known for moving swiftly when it comes to these negotiations, and given how many teams could be in the running - and how many prominent free agents he represents - he is once again in a position of strength this winter.
Boras is expected to hold his annual Winter Meetings media scrum - a major event in and of itself - Wednesday afternoon, at which point he could shed some light into the state of negotiations. Or, at minimum, offer up some pre-planned quotable quips.
Rizzo will meet with reporters each afternoon. Manager Davey Martinez is scheduled to hold his lone media session (his first since the World Series) late this afternoon.